Ask Sam | 12.11.09

Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.

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Man, this is totally disheartening to witness. I attended the debacle against Toronto on Sat with all three of my kids. Thank goodness we didn’t abandon the original plan of going downtown for ribs at Carson’s beforehand even though we were running a little late or the night would have been completely lost. I know you told me before that “it’s still early” but that was before these last three HORRENDOUS games. So they get Hinrich back tonight and still get absolutely demolished in Atlanta. Now what? It just totally seems to me that the team is completely regressing and have now shut out Vinny. I know that’s mostly an indictment to the players but you can’t cut all 12 of them. Can we look forward to another Christmas Eve coach firing? And if so, where do they go from here? Avery Johnson? Now that they have D-Rose, will Doug Collins reconsider if given the opportunity? Ironically, the Bulls decided to send out their annual season ticket survey today. Really?!? Today?!? Guess what? It didn’t go so well. I’m a true Bulls fan – my tickets aren’t primarily a tax write-off nor do I take a lot of business clients to the games. I want/need to see a competitive team on the floor; that’s really all I want from them.

Marc Brauer

Sam: Bill Clinton surely feels all our pain. I’ve gotten a lot of these types of emails this week, aching with frustration. It’s a disappointment to everyone around the Bulls and though I am not involved in the team discussions, I am fairly sure they are not pleased they are losing. As they’ve said, there’s a plan toward next summer and getting a star. That’s been the plea for a decade. Jerry Krause had the right idea with Chandler and Curry, just the wrong guys. The Scott Skiles teams were fun, but everyone knew they couldn’t go anywhere in the end. So they got Ben Wallace, who was supposed to be a star and wasn’t. Then they fell into Rose and he could be a star and I still believe he will be. So you take a risk and go for one more, and that’s where they are now. It’s just that it’s more painful to get there than we thought it would be. This was not supposed to be much better than a .500 team this season, anyway, but yes you’d love it to be that now. We’ll see. I’m going with the early thing still, though the blowouts can’t be part of the plan.

Seriously, what’s going on? Have they quit on Vinny? Are there issues in the locker room? Did Reinsdorf take away their green M&M's? I don't want to hear this injuries crap anymore. Unless every player on the team is injured to where they shouldn't be playing, there is no excuse for the lack of effort, teamwork, and passion from these guys right now. I don't care if Brad Miller can't stand up straight in the morning, I can't either, and damn near all my body parts hurt, but I get up every day and take my miserable self into work and give them 100% while I am there. And I do that for $14 dollars an hour. And I go and buy the NBA package so I can watch my favorite team roll over as if they could give a crap. After this Atlanta game, this is on the whole team. They don't need a leader, they need a pay cut!

I have come up with a brilliant idea to help with this problem. The NBA needs to institute a new marketing campaign. Instead of NBA Cares, their fantasy program to make us believe they actually give a......crap, how about 'NBA Shares'. The NBA, Team owners, GM's and coaches get to pick players who are not giving us our monies' worth to participate in sort of a work release program. The NBA will lend players to struggling small business owners who need cheap, hard labor for two weeks at the beginning of that teams elimination from the season, post or not. The player takes on a laborers salary and the owner gets the players' salary for those two weeks. If the player still doesn't realize the gift he has been given to play the game the following year or if the business owner is not satisfied with his work, then the time should be doubled the following summer. I am just getting so sick of listening to announcers note the lack of hustle from our team. Come on Bulls! Its more than just a game, it’s a privilege! Try showing us some of the heart that we show you with our hard earned paychecks.

Greg Wright

Sam: Was that a question? At a time like this, rants are allowed. Not a bad idea. I’ll check to see if it’s mentioned in the collective bargaining agreement, but perhaps some player might read this and begin to understand the frustration of the fans. Fans shouldn’t want to win more. It’s not as easy as everyone thinks. They do have a charmed life, but they’ve earned it and a lot of guys work hard. But you are exactly right. It is a privilege and an honor to play American pro sports and every fan deserves a terrific effort every game.

This Bulls season is turning my brain to mush. I'm watching the Hawks absolutely embarrass the Bulls, which has become a common occurrence in recent weeks. VDN needs to go, since as you already pointed out in previous posts, we won't be able to turn the team around via trade (at least mid-season). Here's why each defense of Del Negro is weak, and he must be let go immediately:

1) Rose is stagnating and won't take over games. Well, his defense had to improve, but apparently has not. His off the ball play is only good in small spurts (think backdoor lobs from Miller)...more often than not he is standing around watching once he makes his passes. Possibly most important is that Rose should be taking games over, especially with the team struggling from the floor. Well, every one of these falls at the coach's feet. Call a play to put the ball in Rose's hands for a shot. Force him to take over. An improved jumpshot is a direct result of Derrick spending time on his own this summer in the gym, but where is "Coach" Vin adding value? Where is he building Rose's knowledge of the game and how to be more impactful on the court?
2) The team has had injuries, which Vinny can't control. Well, his extreme reluctance to play James Johnson, the team's #1 pick, should be the most damning evidence here. You don't think he's "game ready," but you won't play him in a game to help him gain experience and become more "game ready?" It makes no sense. If Johnson needs work, especially when nearly the entire team is struggling with every phase of the game, why WOULDN'T you get him more clock? This is the only way to develop our #1 pick and ensure that when our team is healthy, we'll have one more skilled player to turn to when needed.

I'd venture a guess that Vinny relying on players like Hunter and Pargo, simply because they're veterans, is more about him desperately trying to save his own job than anything else. Yes, winning games is a parallel goal with developing the team, but when you have the youngest roster in the league, you need to make a point of developing them. Playing very marginal role players like Hunter and Pargo, who are basically bench filler until we get to the 2010 free agent class, just ruins the confidence of our young players and makes us weaker next year. The more we get blown out and look bad in front of James, Wade, Bosh (insert any decent scorer here), the less likely they may be to come here rather than another identical-salaried option. Not to mention us fans...I've had an 11-game package for going on 7 years and we look as bad right now as any stretch since the Floyd era. Help Sam! What's a dedicated fan to do (except change the channel)?

Henry Heisler

Sam: Wait, I’m thinking. Those are some good points, though I think Rose has been fine and the issue has been more he’s asked to do everything, run the team and score and defend and be Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. I’ve long felt this season was vital to be competitive because I was here in 2000 and knew then players were reluctant to come to a rebuilding situation. It’s not that with Rose, Deng, Hinrich and perhaps Tyrus. So the Bulls will have a better base, but winning 32 games disguises that. Actually, I found Vinny reluctant to play guys as he was most comfortable last season with a short rotation and did well with it. But you can’t do that all season, at least if you’re not Mike D’Antoni. And, frankly, Johnson hasn’t been very good. So it’s not all Vinny’s fault, but I understand the frustration and agree having a non playoff season could be fatal to the summer intentions.

Do they honestly believe they can turn this around? Or is it time to DUMP SALARY? Personally, I think Hinrich, Salmons, and Thomas all need to go. And maybe even James Johnson. In my opinion, they can't stay MEDIOCRE. So, they should either clear cap space for 2 top-level free-agents (Wade and Bosh) or get some draft picks and find another superstar or two in the draft lottery.

Chris Wolf

Sam: I hope it’s not that bad. I agree with not staying good enough to just make the playoffs, but it’s a heck of a risk to unload your roster with the hope you can lure two free agents. It doesn’t seem to be working out for the Knicks, though we’ll see. I’m a believer in trying to win as much as possible and not satisfied watching cap space. No one’s really ever succeeded that way. Plus you don’t give up seasons 20 games in. I believe the Bulls can still put something together with what they have.

Something has to be done, Sam. I don't know what. But boy, oh boy. Something has to be done.

Jack Murphy

Sam: I know, I know.

If Del Negro does get fired, assuming the Bulls don't improve much with Hinrich and Thomas back, what good will it be to have an interim coach named? Bickerstaff—and a losing squad—isn't exactly an enticement for free agents next year. Do you have a sense that Doug Collins might step in now as a favor to try and right the ship and stick around to help bring a big FA here. Otherwise I believe the Bulls are doomed. OMG, Bulls down by 23 now. I am sick.

Richard Leslie

Sam: Doug has been the best at fixing broken franchises for some time, though it seemed from the last negotiation both he and the Bulls mutually agreed to go their separate ways. Doug just made the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster, so maybe he’s settled with that though I know he loves coaching. If it comes to that and I had to make a choice, I'd ask Doug to come back because he loves Chicago and would be a great recruiter for free agents given his credibility around the NBA the way he's worked with various coaches over the years and the relationships he has with so many players during his broadcasting time. As for interims, you are right. Lawrence Frank had a remarkable effect after he was hired, but mostly it’s a lost season when you go the interim route and the Bulls cannot afford to have their players believe the coach is just a substitute teacher.

So far, the Bulls' management, since the beginning of the John Paxson/Gar Forman era, have done a decent job in building a competitive roster and taking the best decision possible. Of course, they made some mistakes, which is the part of any jobs on earth, at least to my knowledge. Firing Del Negro may be necessary to provide a spark, but will providing that spark have a real effect on Chicago's play? I doubt. This losing streak with consecutive blowouts, and a tough lose again a not so bad Nets' team, is sure a tough frog to swallow, but not a surprising one. Bulls play shorthanded? Right. Who's fault is it? But will Derrick Byars or Chris Richards have really help the Bulls to play better? At least, you would have bodies on the floor. Yes, but what about the money, the crucial point given the economic situation and the coming free agent circus? Talking about free agents, if anybody fears that Chicago's poor games will prevent all-stars from signing can relax: Bulls are not that bad and as long as you get (well) paid ...
Del Negro is not a good coach? For sure, he is not an experienced one and, as a consequence, he made mistakes. So what? You fire Vinny and then, next move? You hire another coach who will have to deal with the same players, who will have the same attitude that is to say play hard but not smart? It won't change a thing. Great coaches have never changed butter in titles.
The truth is that the team is not, for the moment, that talented. Everybody knows that. And everybody knows, too, that this is a transition year, which means a long season of doubt, with some ups and many downs in a so competitive league. What have we learned with last games that is really new? That Joakim is not Chamberlain? True but he is a good center and he starts to become a real good center. Yeah, small ball is good for offense but only if you can score more than your opponents: and the Bulls can't to that so far. At the same time, their best lineup is currently a small one. Derrick Rose is struggling, and that is a real concern but this is not a big surprise too since John Salmons struggles on getting comfortable with the SG position and is not a constant threat on which defenses have to focus. Consequently, Rose must, at the same time, run the team, which means system and carry the team by attacking the basket more often which is a little king of schizophrenic stuff for a young PG, even if he is as talented as D-Rose.
Clearly, it will be a long and difficult season. Another one. But fans should start claiming for heads at the beginning of the next season, if no great player comes to Chicago and if Derrick Rose does not show any sign of improvement.
For the moment, in case of urgency, break ice in my whisky.

Lee M.

Sam: I’d say you were a Bulls fan, though then I’d assume you are on tranquilizers. Oh, right, whiskey. That was an impressively reasoned analysis. What are you really up to?

It's not easy to build a champion in the NBA. I know that. There's a lot of luck involved. I know that too. So I'm not ready to board the "Good Ship Panic" yet, even in the face of the latest blowout to Atlanta. Still, I was at the Toronto game and the lack of offensive movement was mind-boggling. It's hard to accept that one routinely sees college games where there is better ball movement. Over and over again, a Bull would receive the ball and ... then ... just ... hold ... it. It all seemed interminable and boring (although I was amused by the latest mock-video where Bulls "sang" 80s hits; there was more bobbing and weaving than I've viewed on the court this year). You mentioned in your last "Ask Sam" column that Bulls staff was trying to get Salmons in particular out of the habit of holding the ball. His habit reminds one of that old saying about Willie Mays -- "Where triples go to die." Salmons inspires the saying, "Where the basketball goes to die." Yes, the Bulls are short-handed. But how does this account for the lack of ball movement? When do we conclude the problem is systemic and, I hate to say, related to coaching? I do think Vinnie should be allowed to finish the year, but if the ball movement doesn't improve, it's hard not to hold him accountable.

Mitch Tobin

Sam: I’ve written about this often in my postgame analyses. The Bulls offense is particularly stagnant, especially for a team that needs to push the ball to have success given its personnel, at least in my opinion. I’m not fully sure what’s going on as I’ve been near the bench at road games and hear Vinny shouting for the team to push the ball. I’m not sure if there is a disconnect in communication, whether they are ignoring him, which I really haven’t seen, or that they are a bit too focused on getting into that high screen/roll, which teams have sniffed out well and defended. I do think they have to open the floor and push even on made baskets, get Rose up court and pitch to him and have him attack off the wing, isolate him on top and let him make a play. It’s still a quarter of the way in, so we can hope.

I have become dumfounded by what has happened to the Bulls, I was in the process of writing a scathing e-mail bashing everything that’s going on, I could do that but what good does it do or get me. I’m a diehard fan who wants and expects more from this team and believe more accountability needs to be applied. I really don’t think VDN is the problem, I think the Bulls need to resort to playing high octane basketball like the team did at the end of last year. VDN is very much in my opinion of the Mike D’Antoni mold and it seems as though last year when we ran the score up on teams we were winning games. The Bulls lack a severe defensive style of play and need to focus in on offense, it’s time to fire the shots up in 7 seconds or less and run teams into the ground. There is a reason that the slow grinding old man basketball hasn’t worked. If the Bulls made teams play run and gun high-octane ball, they would win more games, I don’t see Cleveland being able to play that style of ball. Additionally, it’s critical and essential to play this type of ball if TT is going to play to his potential, as well I see Noah’s energy and hustle being a big plus to this type of game. I say let’s give it a chance and try, everything else isn’t working and Gentry has Phoenix playing as though they are going to give the Lakers a run in the West.

Bryce Englin

Sam: The irony, of course, is the commitment this season was to be to defense and the Bulls didn’t want a coach like D’Antoni because of his lack of defensive commitment. I think Vinny has got caught a bit in the middle of this. He wants to do what his bosses say and improve and develop the defense, but he thinks offense first. Then there’s the roster issue where you don’t have a legit three point shooter, which you need in the fast game. I don’t think the Bulls can adopt that Suns style, but they do need to speed the game.

Is Rose playing below last year's hype level because of his ankle, maybe lack of pre-season play? OR...was he just overrated, like so many Chicago athletes? So far this season, Hinrich looks more like the key piece than DR. I have seen, as you have, lots of what I would call "great" players. I just never thought Rose could be put into that category. Actually, no Bull has qualified for that label since the Jordan days.

Mike Dirmeikis

Sam: Tough to please Chicago fans, I know. Hinrich more of a key piece? I’ll take that as frustration and anger. Rose is a terrific talent and in my view will be one of the top point guards in the NBA and a sure All-Star. OK, let’s go back. Imagine the Bulls got the ninth pick in that draft as they were supposed to. What kind of team would they have?

I read about Byron Russell's challenge to MJ. Interesting. I hope it does happen but it got me wondering. Why doesn't the NBA or the players put together a one-on-one tournament? BASKETBALL fans would pay to see something like that....even on pay per view. If I had to pay up $50 to watch stars like Wade, Kobe and LeBron go at it, I would do it in a heartbeat! Even lesser players like Gay, Josh Smith, Monta Ellis and D Rose would be worth it. I'd even pay more than $50, and I don't like the whole pay per view idea.

Victor Devaldivielso

Sam: So how much do you think you’d have to pay them to risk getting hurt and endangering their $20 million annual contracts? And how about teams who all don’t want their players in the Olympics but have been told by the league not to complain or say anything about it or be severely fined? We’ll stick with Mark Cuban being thrown onto a table. Now that was worth paying for.

If Mark Gasol was available and you’re the Chicago Bulls would you trade for him?

S.J Demure

Sam: He’s not like Pau because he’s more a classic post player. He’s one of the most improved players in the league and I assume untouchable as he’s really good. Unless the Lakers want him, of course.

Do you think Bill Cartwright is ever going to get another head coaching job in the NBA? I thought he did a pretty good job when he was with the Bulls considering the circumstances. He inherited a mess after Tim Floyd, but the team improved under his watch. With all the coaching retreads that get head coaching jobs it kind of mystifies me that such a classy professional hasn't gotten another shot.

Doug Hoffer

Sam: Me as well. The same recycled guys get mentioned all the time. Byron Scott’s team gave up. Avery Johnson’s team practically mutinied to get him out. Jeff Van Gundy quit on the Knicks when things turned bad. Bill is a hard working pro, knowledgeable and highly respected. As soon as he left the Nets, the Suns gobbled him up. His voice may be an issue as he has trouble projecting from needing an operation from the beating he took playing for the Bulls. Without even complaining, you’ll recall. I thought Curry and Chandler were starting to come along under him. He’s a rare big man who is a coach. I think he deserves another chance, if only for Stacey King to start doing his famous Cartwright imitation again.

I think Loul Deng has started the season like we’ve all hoped he would. Although, I’m surprised some times when I look at the box score and he had twenty plus points and eight or nine rebounds; his stats seam to just sneak up on you. Is it enough that he is filling up the box score or is it a valid criticism that he doesn’t take over a game?

Troy Sarni

Sam: I think Lu has been terrific this season coming back from missing much of last season the way he has. It’s just that he’s not a big-time scorer or a guy to clear out and take over because he doesn’t have the game to break down guys one-on-one. He gets his points off what others do and we should applaud him because he is a guy who works and hustles for scores and rebounds. The numbers he’s getting now are about the best you’ll see from him, which is pretty darned good.

John Salmons has a decent ability to drive into the paint but once there he isn't very aggressive. Instead of attacking the rim he shoots flatfooted layups that are frequently blocked or just plain missed. If he doesn't quite get to the rim he either shoots flatfooted or has the ball stolen. He rarely tries to rise above the defense to dunk or shoot a short jump shot. I noticed this in his game last year but he was scoring most of the time so I didn't think much of it but he's not getting away with it this year. Has anyone talked to him about attacking more?

David Yuen

Sam: I believe they do. It’s a process. Players tend to be stubborn and often feel they got to the NBA playing this way, so why change. Salmons doesn’t play an attacking, aggressive style and the staff has been talking to him often about moving the ball, moving himself, being more energetic. He just doesn’t seem to be that kind of person. We’ve seen him have great games, and I see him as a competitor. There have been some issues for him this season. I think moving to shooting guard has been a problem as guys accustomed to shots from a certain spot or certain places and he’s not really a catch and shoot guy like Gordon. He likes to catch and make a move and it tends to bring the defense with him. I think he’s also suffered a bit given it’s the first time in the NBA he’s been asked to step up and be the main scorer on the team given the departure of Gordon. He’s seemed to aim some shots and almost try to force them in, though he’s relaxed some of late and has shot the three better. I think he’ll be better as the season progresses and he becomes more accustomed to the position. We’ve seen in the playoff with Boston he can be aggressive and fight. He just doesn’t show it like some players.

My biggest fear with the Bulls moving forward is the continued poor play of Salmons. Not only does it hurt team success this year, but if it continues, maybe the market for him dries up and he ends up opting in after all. And in effect, ruining the Bulls' 2010 plans.

To hedge their bet, I think the Bulls should explore moving Deng or Hinrich.

Is there a market at all for Deng and Hinrich? And when I say market, I mean teams willing to give up expiring deals/picks in exchange.

Dan Frystak

Sam: It is a big question with Salmons because if he doesn’t opt out there won’t be enough under the cap to sign a max player. I’d assumed after last season Salmons would opt out with so many teams having money in 2010 and Salmons basically on an exception deal. He hasn’t been as good as last season, so who knows. He still may given many of the top guys may choose to stay with their teams and there’ll be money out there to be had by free agents. It’s doubtful the Bulls would deal Deng given you need someone to play and it’s very difficult to trade for expiring deals as the combination of free agency in 2010 and declining revenues has teams holding onto their expiring deals to save money. I doubt it’s possible to move players for expiring deals in almost all cases but with potential stars like Bosh and Stoudemire if they become available.

In sports, I think most people (fans) tend to forget that players are human
beings. I've had a bad day at work before. I let outside distractions creep in
now and again. I find that the future of my company impacts some of my daily
assignments and how I approach them. Players have distractions (and
feelings)too. My question is, How would you guess that players feel to be
playing on teams like the Nets, Knicks, or even the Bulls, waiting find out
which big free agent their respective teams will try to acquire? The players who play through the cap saving,
the players who are traded for their expiring contract, the players who work to
have that winning record to attract that shinny new free agent, the players who
lead the team now with the chance that they'll be another role player next year
(or not on the team at all). Who do "The Other Players" play for?

Justin Werrbach

Sam: It’s an interesting concept, though fans generally decide with all that money they make they should show up and do what they are told. You are right. They do have the same issues and moods and reactions. The Knicks are the prime example of that this season with almost no one on the roster expected back, though the conventional wisdom is you play for your next contract so you should be motivated. The Knicks are actually playing pretty well of late with guys who’ll all be gone, like Larry Hughes and Al Harrington. It shouldn’t be much of an issue with the Bulls with most of the main players, like Deng and Hinrich, under contract and Rose on his rookie deal. Though I do hear players say at times they feel Rose is being asked to do too much with the implication that more responsibility should be spread around.

How about McGrady, Battier and Chuck Hayes for Tyrus, Salmons, Miller and Jerome James?

Rockets still keep their cap relief intact for next year and get some pieces for McGrady and a possible playoff run.

Bulls just need to change something and this was the best I could come up with besides taking the easy way out by firing Vinny.

Jason Quaid

Sam: Of course this is ridiculous the way the Rockets are playing with Hayes and Battier such key pieces. Though I wanted to mention it because I get so man emails suggesting a trade for McGrady. No one even knows if he can walk. It is amazing and reminds me of gm’s who always pick up players like Shaq or Chris Webber or Allen Iverson and think they are who they were instead of who they are. McGrady could be virtually worthless this season given how little he’s played the last two years. And if he can play he’s he exact opposite player you’d want for the Bulls, a guy coming off surgery who was a ball stopping, walk it up player when he was healthy.

In light of your support for the
acquisition of Monta Ellis. How would you consider he fits with the
Bulls pursuit of 'character' players. While I do not think that his
injury as a result of breaching his contract is too big a deal his
apparent petulance after being fined for breaching his contract and
causing himself to be unable to work seems an unattractive trait. His
continued war with his coach, even if he is difficult, also seems to
be indicative of someone who is not always going to work for the good
of the team. Or is the situation in Golden State just so poisonous
that good guys look like bad guys. Additionally from a purely
basketball standpoint doesn't matching Ellis and Rose in the backcourt
just make you really small and repeat all the problems of a
Gordon/Rose backcourt?

Ben Kelly

Sam: I think the Monta/Rose thing is a bit of a bigger issue for defense and backcourt stability, though I think Monta is a good kid. When the front office purge was going on last season in Golden State, Monta was the only player to call some of the fired staffers to wish them well and offer his support. He’s a dynamic scorer and All-Star level player, and since I’m not a big believer the main free agents will leave this summer I’d try to get a top player like Ellis if I could. The way he’s played of late that seems unlikely.

With the number of injuries impacting the Bulls, I'm beginning to get disgusted by their inability to go over the salary cap this season. I understand that this team is not title-worthy, and that fiscal conservancy can be a good thing during these times. I also understand that it results in a large monetary hit, but we're not talking about a small market team here. This is not Memphis, Charlotte, or even Atlanta (who are great but don't sell out). This is Chicago. This is a team that has generally led the league in home attendance the past 20 years, even though the last 10 years have generally been lottery fodder. I understand that it's a business, but the good faith of the Chicago fans is being tested. Their lack of depth is just running down their starters, which in turn will destroy the rest of the year (even when Tyrus and Kirk come back). I was excited by the Bulls play the first two weeks, assuming they would improve even more once Rose got healthy. But how can he get healthy playing these minutes?

Adam Lintner

Sam: I know that’s been an issue with the fans, but mandate is mandate, and management has been clear they will not go into the luxury tax unless they are competing for s title. The Spurs until this season refused to pay luxury tax. Of course, with Tim Duncan they didn’t have to. I understand the issue of not taking on a 12th man now, even with injuries, given you want to have some flexibility when the big February deals present themselves and don’t want to be up against the tax line. Also, really, who are these 10-day type contract guys who will make a difference? Whether the Bulls spent their money badly on some players they added is another issue and in basketball you cannot buy out your mistakes like in baseball. Plus, many teams go only eight or nine deep all season. The Suns ran all season and played seven guys for four years, including Steve Nash. If you’ve got guys in their 20’s they should be able to play four games a week without tiring out. I liked Derrick Byars, too, but how many more games did you think the Bulls would have won if he were on the team? I want to see if there’s something to be done in February and rather would hold onto the money for now. If I could get a player like Bosh or Stoudemire, then I’d say spend. If not, I’m not throwing money at end of the roster guys. The Bulls said the test will be next summer, so we’ll see.

I Just watched Deron Williams on TNT vs. Orlando and he looked terrific. I know Utah brought in John Stockton to mentor him over a couple summers, and he is coached by Jerry Sloan--a former great PG. I know we have Lindsey to develop Derrick, but what about bringing someone else in? It's obvious that Derrick is the future of our franchise and has the talent to be the best PG in the league. Can't we bring in a former great PG to personally coach him how to be successful?

Carlos Cabrera

Sam: It’s interesting you mention that. The greatest point guard to me ever was Oscar Robertson. I’d talked to people close with Oscar a few years ago before Derrick was drafted and mentioned if Oscar might be interested in working with him. Actually, Oscar was, but Oscar remains a serious and busy guy and wanted to get a commitment to that. I believe Rose would be that kind of student, but noting ever came to pass. I still think it would be a great idea. Read some of the books Oscar wrote. To me he was the perfect player and maybe one of the most knowledgeable players about the game ever. He’s a resource that never has been used enough in the NBA because he dared to challenge the league and the owners and is the main man responsible for free agency in the NBA. I wish Derrick could spend even a day with him

Is it just me, or was the JR Smith for Howard Eisley trade a terrible decision? JR Smith, although he was making quite a bit of money at the time for such a young guy, has terrific leaping ability and has developed into a great shooter, and Eisley never played and was a horrible player at the time. How much better would the Bulls be offensively with JR Smith right now?

Max Kirschenbaum

Sam: I love these. Shouldn’t the Bulls have drafted Bill Cartwright instead of David Greenwood? What about when the Bulls passed Walt Frazier for Clem Haskins and then went for Jimmy Collins over Nate Archibald. Imagine how good Jordan would have been with Derek Harper at point instead of having taken Sidney Green. We all know Smith with his history of misbehavior (the guy just got out of jail before the season) would never have stuck with the Bulls, would never have played ahead of Ben Gordon and been a distraction fans would have been screaming to get out. You can’t keep going back for what ifs unless you wrote me beforehand and predicted his future correctly.

What’s up with Derrick Rose? I don’t know what you think, but he seems shy or intimidated once he gets in front of a camera. I look at all the super stars and All-Stars in all sports who teams consider their leader or marquee player and for the most part those players who are in that position speak better in front of the camera. Has anyone worked with Rose on this?

Alfredo Rivas

Sam: Derrick is unusually shy and quiet and even people close to him say he rarely tells them much about anything and can sit long, long periods of time without ever talking. It is somewhat a detriment given the Bulls are trying to put him in a leadership position. He may be that, but more in actions than words, which some leaders are. In the long run, I feel Derrick will be better and more comfortable with a better player on the team. I think he’s happy to pass the ball, see guys score and win.

When is Tyrus Thomas coming back?? It seems to me that he is the missing link to this team. The bulls lost ALOT of energy on the court when he is not out there.. We started losing when he go hurt.

Troy Miller

Sam: Tyrus for MVP, eh? It just shows how desperate the team has become that they seem to be saying they need to hold on until Tyrus returns. One issue is we all thought the Bulls would have better depth this season with Hinrich, Miller, Gibson, Pargo, etc. Gibson has had to start with Tyrus out, so that should help, and Tyrus does protect the basket well with his shot blocking. Unfortunately he seems at least two weeks away. And then who knows what shape he’ll be in, though I have seen him shooting before games lately.

Think BG knocks down that shot Salmons left short (Nets)? I really didn’t think we would miss him THAT much this season but we do.

Keith Mikhail

Sam: As I recall, Ben had missed 17 of 18 of those types of shots until the playoffs last season. He did hit them as a rookie but struggled after that as defenses collapsed on him and put a taller player on him. Now he’s MJ, eh? But don’t get me wrong. Where they really miss Ben is when he’d hit those three or four in a row in the third or early fourth to keep you in the game or put you up.

I've noticed that Luol Deng often settles for a 20 foot jumpshot with 15-18 seconds left on the 
shot clock. My question is: why? Admittedly, he is a better-than-average shooter, but isn't that shot there whenever we want it? Why 
not at least try to get a layup or other high-percentage look first? 
Is our offense so inept that he has a permanent green light? Also, does Brad Miller have malaria? He moves around like he's been sedated.

Alvy Singer

Sam: I know the Bulls get criticized a lot for being a jump shooting team, but that’s what they mostly are for now. Sometimes I yearn for Rose to finish stronger and draw contact, which I feel he’ll learn. It took Scottie Pippen several years to even begin to do that. I watched one day in Pippen’s third season as Jordan worked with Pippen for hours trying to teach him. Rose could use such a teacher. Luol is best when running to a stop, catching and shooting. He’s not good trying to break his man down one on one, so I don’t have much problem with that. Obviously, if you can move the ball and get a better shot, but if the Bulls want to play fast it’s OK to take good shots even early in the clock and speed he tempo.

How do you see Greg Oden's
future as an NBA basketball player? I feel very sorry for this guy. Two
major, season-ending injuries in last three years. Last season he also
missed 20 or so games due to an injury. When Oden's contract expires, if
you were a GM would you be willing to invest money for a long term deal
for this potentially valuable player, but who has very serious injury

Best regards from Poland.

Marcin Mochal

Sam: It is amazing for a franchise to have passed Jordan for Bowie and now Durant for Oden, though no one would have taken Durant before Oden. I read somewhere that Danny Ainge would have, though I doubt that as Boston was practically living with Oden that draft. Oden, given that he’s a bit sensitive and mechanical in his play, likely will turn out like Bowie, a serviceable big man during his career or if he stays healthy like Tree Rollins, a good big man role player. He’s not going to get a big contract and who knows how long it will take him to return. It’s too bad as he basically seemed a nice kid.

I know people talk about Wade coming to Chicago every day, but would he fit into the system? I mean, he is a great player. He can 
score, steal, pass the ball, shoot, even block shots, but the bulls 
have Derrick Rose already. I know they play different positions, but 
still there is no question that they both like to shoot the ball. Plus 
is a shooting guard really what the bulls are in search for. Don't get 
me wrong, I would be so excited if the bulls were to get Wade, simply 
because he is a prime time NBA player, but is he what the team needs 
to take that next step from a first round playoff team to a second 
round playoff team? Or to the Championship? In my mind the Bulls are 
in a rebuilding phase. You look at every position, and everything 
seems solid, but as a team the growth is still not completed. I just 
don't see Wade as the answer to every problem in Chicago basketball.

Noah Yastow

Sam: I see him as the answer to everyone’s prayers. I’d be shocked if he left Miami, but I don’t know any more than anyone. Whatever system the Bulls do have I’d change to accommodate Wade. In fact, he can tell me what system he wants and I’d run that. Plus, Rose would love to be a facilitator for Wade. And let’s stop talking about championships. It’s not lottery or championship. Winning a title involves a lot of luck and circumstance. I’m sure Bulls fans now will settle for very competitive, at least I hope so.

I couldn't agree with you more about LeBron acting really immature for someone with Hall of Fame potential: dancing away in front of the camera/audience while his Cavs are already crushing the Bulls (he did that too against the Celtics late in the regular season last year and I remember that annoyed some of the Celtics).
A lot of the NBA legends that you mentioned would definitely cringe if they saw LeBron rubbing it to the Bulls like that, but what about late NBA legend Red Auerbach? His signature cigar at the end of the games was a sign of trash-talking.

Richard Yang

Sam: Red was kind of a pain in the rear with that, but he did it when he was GM and in the stands, I recall. I think the NFL goes way too far with their fines on some of the antics of Ochocinco. Can’t believe I called him that. The NBA should never allow that kind of behavior, which is way worse then anything that goes on in the Not Fun League. I’m for some playful stuff and a more fun atmosphere than the NFL, but LeBron was rubbing it in and could cause a fight. I’ve talked to some referees who feel the league should act against it, but the feeling is James is off limits and protected. I hope that’s not the case. The next time the league should suspend him. Or at least give him a drug test. Could you act like that during a game if you were sober?


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